Products I’m Loving, Hating, and Still Trying

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I know it’s been a long time since I wrote a blog post. Although this winter weather seemed to last forever, time flew by! There’s been so much going on, that I haven’t had a chance to write updates as much as I would like, so this will probably be a long post as I try to catch you up on some products I’ve been using. I’m going to review some things I’ve found to be great, some not so great, and some I haven’t made a decision on yet. For this post I’m only going to talk about products I’ve purchased and decided to try myself, so none of it has been sent to me, and my reviews are completely unbiased. I will say that I have had a couple great products sent to me recently that I am regularly using, but I will talk about those in another post.

Let’s start with those that I’m loving. I was in the drugstore the other day, and randomly decided to pick up a couple Physicians Formula products because they were on sale. One of the items, the Super CC Correct + Conceal + Cover Cream SPF 30, makes the list of things I’m loving. Unfortunately, the other item did not, and will be on another list. The CC Cream works really well though. It has a nice consistency, a good amount of coverage, sun protection, and has more of a matte finish which I prefer.

The second item I’m loving is hand cream by Delectable. I received a sample in one of my monthly sample subscription boxes (can’t remember which one), and I liked it so much that I had to buy more! It provides a good amount of moisture, but it absorbs completely, and there’s no greasiness whatsoever. I also love the scent of the mint one. For some reason that scent only comes in a smaller, travel size though.

The third product I’ve been really impressed by is the Shea Moisture 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Overnight Perfecting Treatment. I’ve been using this in my hair at night before bed, and then washing it as usual in the morning. I think it’s been making my hair a lot softer, especially the ends which tend to get dry from my frequent coloring and daily washing/blow drying.

Now, on to what I’m hating. Luckily this list is short, as I’ve been trying some really good products lately. There’s only one thing I can think of that makes this list right now, and that’s the other Physician’s Formula item I bought. The Eye Booster Instant Lash Extension Kit is by far one of the WORST mascaras I’ve ever tried! It’s a three step system where you put on the mascara, then put on the fibers, and then put on more mascara….and then have to wash your face, redo all your makeup, and clean the bathroom, because it’s made THE BIGGEST MESS IN THE WORLD!! I’ve used other brands of mascara that use this fiber concept, and I have NEVER had another one make such a mess. Those fibers got EVERYWHERE, including all over my face and in my eyes, making my eyes sting and water, and having to then redo all of my makeup. This was a big FAIL!

As for what I’m still trying or on the fence about, a couple hair products are on this list (I’m not kidding about being a hair product junkie, and trying everything under the sun). The first product is a conditioning treatment called Journey Hair Care that’s been advertising all over Facebook and Instagram (I guess I’m also not kidding about falling for every gimmick I come across). You’re supposed to use it once a week for at least 30 minutes, and it’s supposed to make your hair grow long and healthy. I’ve only used it twice so far, and I will say my hair felt nice afterwards, but I’ll have to give it more time to see if it really lives up to all of it’s claims.
The second is another hair treatment called Keraphix by Nexxus. It’s a heavy duty protein treatment that’s supposed to restore severely damaged hair. My hair got put through the wringer a couple months ago after a hair color disaster, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to give this a try. I just used it for the first time today, in fact. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, because my hair seemed to take a little longer to dry (which is usually a bad sign for me), but once it finally dried, it seems fairly soft and smooth. I will have to try it another time or two though, before I decide for sure what I think.

So there you have it. My loves, hates, and still tryings. Like I said, I will do another post soon with a couple items I was gifted that I love, but I wanted to keep this completely about my own purchases to make it clear that it’s totally an unbiased review. If anyone else has tried any of these products I’ve mentioned, leave me a message and let me know your thoughts!

A Trip to Saratoga Springs

I first stumbled upon Saratoga Springs, NY about five or six years ago when I was going with my husband to Glens Falls to watch our local high school basketball team play in the state championship games. We drove through Saratoga Springs to get there, and we could tell the town had such a cute, resort feel, that we knew we wanted to come back sometime. When the team returned to states a few years after that, we stayed in Saratoga Springs instead, and sure enough, it was a great time! There was so much to do though, that I only got a small taste of it at that time, so when my sister had to go to Saratoga for a work conference last year and this year, I jumped at the chance of going with her to keep her company!

Saratoga Springs is about 30 minutes from Albany, and about 3 hours from NYC, so it’s become a popular summer retreat for the wealthy from these areas, as well as a common conference destination. It actually became well known hundreds of years ago for their unique mineral water. People would come from all over to bathe in the waters, as they were believed to have special healing properties. To this day, bathing in the waters is thought to help with a variety of ailments. The other thing Saratoga is known for is their horse races. The Saratoga Race Course, which opened in 1863, is the oldest continually operating horse track in America. I have yet to actually get here when they’re in season, but that’s still on my to do list!

As soon as I knew I’d be coming back to Saratoga Springs this year, I began working on our itinerary. As our husbands well know, and often whine about, my sister and I don’t believe in a relaxing vacation. Whenever we go anywhere, we spend days mapping out an activity filled itinerary. We pretty much go non-stop from morning to night. We even came into town a couple days before her conference started, so we could have extra time to sight see, especially for her since she would be stuck in the conference for some of it.

We stayed at The Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa, which is where her conference, and most others, are held. It is located on the grounds of a state park, and if you’re into nature and outdoor activities, you’ll find the scenery beautiful. Also, if you’re someone who enjoys historical places, you’ll probably love this place, which describes itself as a “boutique” hotel. For me, however, “boutique” usually is code for old and in need of updating. And I have to say, that was somewhat the case here. We knew what we were getting into though, as we had stayed here for her conference last year, and we chose to forego a more modern hotel in town for the convenience of being where the conference was. So I expected some minor details to not be up to my usual standards, but what I didn’t expect was a ladybug infestation and customer service that left a lot to be desired.

When my sister called to make the reservations, she asked about the discount code she had been given for booking as part of her conference. However, because we wanted to book a large suite and not a regular room, they wouldn’t let us use the code. Obviously we didn’t expect to get a suite for the price of a regular room, but I don’t see why, if they were giving say a 10% discount on one type of room, we couldn’t get the same 10% discount on another type. But we understood that this was totally our choice to upgrade (ok, my choice…I’m the high-maintenance one), so we didn’t argue or think much more about it at the time. Little did we know, this was a sign of things to come regarding their customer service.

Part of the “charm” of this old hotel is old-fashioned wooden windows and doors. The old, paned type of windows that you can lift open and don’t have screens. As soon as we checked in and went up to our room, we saw a ton of ladybugs around the room, especially near the windows. There were also a couple of grasshopper looking bugs as well. It was totally gross. Now as I mentioned, this is on the grounds of a wooded state park, so I understand you’re going to have some bugs in the area. But what was really crazy was they had tried to stuff Kleenex in the gaps of the windows to keep the bugs out, which was obviously how they were getting in. We told the front desk about it, and they said they’d have someone take care of it. Taking care of it, however, meant putting duct tape all around the seams of the windows. I understand they want to keep their “boutique” feel, but when it gets to the point that you’re using Kleenex and duct tape to keep the bugs out, it might be time for some updating! Again, if it wasn’t for the fact that the conference was right there, I would’ve left immediately due to this alone.

The second area that could use some improvement is their housekeeping schedule, or lack thereof. I always try to leave my hotel room for awhile in the morning to give housekeeping a chance to clean without me being in the way. Well the one morning I stayed away the whole morning, other than going up a couple times to check if they came, and they still hadn’t come by the time I had to go to my spa appointment at 2pm. So the next morning I figured I’d sleep in a little bit, and by the time I got done showering and getting ready to leave the room at 11am, they had already left a note under the door saying they weren’t going to service my room because I had the do not disturb sign still up! I also saw them still on the floor cleaning rooms that afternoon, so it seems absurd that they would leave me that note by 11am.

The third complaint I had was also in the area of customer service. Their checkout time is at 11am, but my sister’s conference wasn’t going to get out until noon. We asked if we could have an hour later to checkout, but they said no, and the latest they would give us was 11:30. I have asked for extended checkouts at numerous hotels before, and NEVER has anyone ever said no. In fact, most hotels even say to just ask if you need a later time. I understand that they probably had more conferences coming in to start that day, but if you’re gearing your hotel to host conferences, you probably should hire more maids, or do whatever you need to do to allow for a noon checkout and faster turnover of rooms, since that’s when conferences often end on the final day.

On a good note, the best part of this resort is definitely their spa. The Roosevelt Baths and Spa is one of the places you can go in town to take a mineral bath. I did a body rejuvenation wrap along with a mineral bath, and it was wonderful! The last time I was here I did both of these services, along with a facial as well. Both times were a very relaxing, enjoyable experience, and the estheticians I had each time were very friendly and helpful. I highly recommend giving this spa a try if you’re ever in the area. They offer a full range of spa services, and I’m sure they’re all great!

Besides the spa, one of my favorite things to do is Saratoga Springs is to try new restaurants. For a town that’s on the smaller side, there is definitely not a shortage of restaurants. I have now been here a few times, and I still haven’t come close to trying all there is to try. One thing I recommend doing though, is calling to verify the hours of the establishments you’re planning on going to. Since this is a very seasonal place, and more geared toward summer tourists, some of the places close or lessen their hours in the off season. And apparently they don’t bother to update their websites, which we found out the hard way. A couple of my favorite places were The Brook Tavern (best ribs I have ever had), The Thirsty Owl (a super cute winery and bistro), Salt and Char (very good filet), and The Local Pub and Teahouse (great for a late night bite). Not only did these places have good food, but they also had some of the friendliest staff that we encountered on this trip. Especially The Local Pub and Teahouse, where the super nice bartender graciously offered to let us order from their full menu even though it was almost time for them to stop serving (their website stated different hours, and we were just looking for a snack though, after being ignored by other places whose websites were inaccurate).

Which leads me to the not-so-friendly places. We attempted to go to about three other places that advertised as having nightly entertainment and snacks, only to find that the information must’ve been outdated. But to make matters worse, when we walked into these places, they didn’t even acknowledge us or ask if they could help us. They either didn’t even have anyone at the hostess stand at all, or the people who were there simply watched us stand there looking confused, and didn’t even say a word to us. This happened to us at Saratoga City Tavern, One Caroline, and Cantina. Now I am the last person who knowingly shows up at a restaurant right before closing time, as I don’t want to be that annoying person, but these places either had incorrect hours posted on their websites, were bars that were still open and serving drinks, and/or still technically had about half an hour left before their true closing time. So the fact that no one could even acknowledge us, or even bother to explain that we were too late, was just rude. So although these looked like fun places to try based on what I saw online, I’d have no desire to give them my business on a future visit.

In between a lot of eating, we also did a few other fun activities that the area has to offer. We went to a comedy show at The Comedy Works, did some gambling at the casino, and went on a couple ghost tours, one of which was at the Yaddo Gardens, which I am told is especially beautiful during the summer season. We obviously weren’t really expecting to run into any ghosts, but these tours are always a good way of learning a lot of interesting history about an area. We also stopped at a couple places that have my favorite treats – The Candy Company, home of the original peppermint pig, and Kilwin’s, my all time favorite ice cream. All in all, despite the few hiccups, this was a very fun trip, and I look forward to my next visit to Saratoga Springs.

Fashion Model Essentials

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We’ve all been there. You find what you think is the perfect dress for an occasion, but hesitate to buy it when you find yourself thinking, “what kind of bra/underwear would I wear with that?!” When you find yourself in that situation again, the place to turn to is http://www.fashionmodelessentials.com. They carry a wide array of enhancement, modesty, and comfort products. Their products include silicone push-up inserts, adhesive bras, fashion tape, bra converters, and various shoe insert foot pads. I tried their fashion tape, petal tops, and my personal favorite, the shoe insert foot pads, all of which were wonderful and work just as described. I was actually able to wear heels for an entire day, which NEVER happens! So the next time you’re left wondering what would I wear with that, go ahead and buy it!

Disclaimer: I received these products for free for testing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

 

Jan Marini Skincare

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I have been using Jan Marini C-ESTA vitamin c serum every day since being given the opportunity to try it three months ago, and I can still honestly say it’s the best vitamin c serum I’ve tried, so I was thrilled when they invited me to try a couple more of their products. This time, I tried their Clean Zyme and Skin Zyme duo.

These products, which are intended to be used together, contain proteolytic enzymes that gently remove dead skin cells to reveal healthy, smooth, and polished skin. It can be used anytime your skin needs a gentle exfoliation. First, you apply a thin layer of the Skin Zyme over your face, and let it stay on for 20 minutes. Then, in order to remove it, you apply a small amount of Clean Zyme to your face, and massage until it emulsifies. Wipe off with a warm washcloth, blot dry, and apply your normal moisturizer and/or other products.

After using this duo, my skin was left feeling extremely smooth, soft, and had the perfect glow! It’s definitely safe to say that I will be adding these Jan Marini products to my skincare regime as well! They can be purchased at https://www.janmarini.com/skin-care-products/exfoliate/clean-zyme-skin-zyme .

Disclaimer: I received these products for free for testing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

Erno Laszlo Mask Review

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I recently tested a new face mask by Erno Laszlo. The mask I tried was the Lighten & Brighten White Marble Bright Face Mask. It claims that it is a lightening, brightening, and hydrating mask, that clarifies the skin as it fights the appearance of dark spots, while also cooling and plumping. This certainly was a very unique mask, and different than any I’ve used before. The product comes in two separate packets that have to be mixed together. The first step is a gel-like liquid, and the second is a powder. You have to mix these together in a bowl with the spatula they give you, and then apply to your face. The consistency is very thick and lumpy, and it starts to harden fairly quickly. I found it hard to apply an even layer. As it hardens, it becomes very rubbery. Once you apply it to your face, let it dry for 15-20 minutes, and then peel it off. It didn’t say how to discard of the mask and leftover product, but I threw it out in the garbage. It was so thick and rubbery, I didn’t dare wash it down the drain. The results of the mask were good. My skin was left soft and smooth. However, it was a more complicated and time-consuming process than what I would be up for on a regular basis. This is something I will use once in a while as a treat when I feel like having a long, relaxing spa day, but it’s not something that will be used on a frequent basis.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free from Influenster for testing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

Skincare Product Reviews

I recently tested a couple of new skincare products that I wanted to share with all of you. The first one is a moisturizer called NeoStrata Sheer Hydration SPF 35. The second one is a Bionic Oxygen Facial by Exuviance.

Last weekend, we had a fun time out on the lake boating. Although I sometimes let myself get a little bit of a tan (bad, I know!), I always make sure I keep my face protected to help prevent wrinkles. I usually have a hard time finding SPF products that I like that aren’t too heavy, greasy, or cause breakouts. So I was thrilled when I tried this new Sheer Hydration moisturizer by NeoStrata. This moisturizer contains a SPF of 35, and is very lightweight and oil-free. This formula not only provide sun protection, but also helps even skin tone, by diminishing the appearance of dark spots, and improving skin texture and firmness. There is also a special botanical blend called Phytotal, that helps to control and reduced oiliness. This product also works great under make-up. My make-up goes on super smooth with a velvety feel, and doesn’t get greasy or slide off. NeoStrata Sheer Hydration SPF 35 can be purchased at http://www.neostrata.com.

The Bionic Oxygen Facial by Exuviance was a very interesting and unique product. I had never used anything like it before. It describes itself as a pure oxygen and bionic blend mask that detoxifies and energizes the skin, while restoring a radiant and youthful complexion. To use this mask, you massage a layer all over your clean, damp skin. Wait about five minutes, and it will turn into a thick foam, and then it begins to disappear. At that point, you can rinse your face and apply moisturizer. My skin felt absolutely terrific after using this treatment! It seriously looked, and felt, like I had just gotten an actual facial done at a spa! My skin was super soft, smooth, and bright. I will definitely be continuing to use this product on a regular basis! They recommend using it few times a week. It can be purchased at http://www.exuviance.com.

Disclaimer: I received these products for free for testing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

Kenra Platinum Snail Anti-Aging Collection Review

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I was recently sent some Kenra hair products to review. I’m going to be completely honest and say that at first I was very skeptical. I have tried a few Kenra products in the past, and they haven’t been the best for me. This time, I was trying their new Kenra Platinum Snail Anti-Aging collection, Kenra Shaping Spray 21, and Kenra Platinum Heat Block Hairspray 22. I am going to focus my review primarily on the snail collection products, as I seldom use styling products with hold or hairspray, so I feel I wouldn’t be giving it an accurate review. I will say, however, that Kenra is known for their hairsprays, and our favorites among many people I know (including my mom!).

The Kenra Platinum Snail Anti-Aging Collection consisted of shampoo, conditioner, and a leave-in cream. In order to test these thoroughly and fairly, I used them in three different ways. I can sometimes have trouble with some leave-ins being too heavy for my hair, so I didn’t want that to negatively affect my overall opinion. I first tested the products using the Kenra Platinum Snail Anti-Aging Shampoo and Conditioner, but using the leave-ins I normally use, so I could get an accurate assessment of the shampoo and conditioner without it being impacted by the new leave-in. After using the products like that for a while, I tested the Kenra Platinum Snail CC Creme. In order to give this an unbiased review, I went back to using my usual shampoo and conditioner, but used the Snail CC Creme in place of my usual leave-ins. Finally, once I did this test for a bit, I put the whole system together, and used the Snail Anti-Aging Shampoo, Conditioner, and CC creme all together.

And my final verdict? They’re amazing! Regardless of what combination I used, I was left with great hair! My hair felt super soft, flowy, and light weight. It never felt greasy or weighed down. The Snail Collection is infused with Snail Essence, a highly concentrated blend of proteins. It helps restore shine, manageability, and youthfulness in hair. An added bonus is, they smell great too! These products can all be purchased at Ulta stores. For more information on these, or any Kenra products, visit http://www.kenraprofessional.com.

Disclaimer: I received these products for free for testing purposes, but all opinions are my own.